WithAll Blog


3 Tips When Your Kids Only Want Sugary and Salty Snacks (From a Registered Dietician)

Feb 16, 2024

Dr Katie Loth
We received this question from a mom to young kids: “It feels impossible to pack healthy snacks as everything is so processed and packaged these days. And it seems my kids only want these sorts of particularly sweet or particularly fatty snacks. I worry all this is making them, or will make them, heavy or overweight. How do you think about these things so as not to worry?”

We asked registered dietician and mother of three, Dr. Katie Loth for her advice for handling sweet and fatty snacks with kids. Here is what she had to share.

This is a great question and first I want to start by saying that you’re right.

There are more and more processed foods available for us to buy than ever before. The other thing that I’ve noticed as a mom is that there’s more food in more places than ever before. It’s not something you can escape. Another thing to know is that processed foods, foods that are
high in fat, salt, or sugar, are things that taste good naturally. So, it makes sense that it’s what kids want to eat. All those things make it challenging to help kids navigate the food environment they live in, which is an environment filled with tasty things that aren’t necessarily things we want them to eat all the time.

Tip #1: Think of it as a balance.

How I try to handle this as a mom is to think of it as a balance. I try to avoid talking about foods as being good or bad, putting them in one category or another. We know from research and what I’ve experienced personally is that the more we try to talk our kids out of doing something, sometimes the more they feel compelled to do it.

For example, the more we talk about cookies, cakes, or chips being special, occasional foods that they get to eat, the more that they are drawn to them because they feel like the exciting thing and the thing that they have to work hard to get.

So, I try to think about balance in what I bring into my home. I don’t want to make a home that’s only filled with the “healthy” or “fresh” options while avoiding all of these other foods because I think that makes kids more drawn to those other foods and when they’re out of our house, when they’re at school, or a friend’s house they’re going to be more compelled to seek those food out.

Tip #2: Focus on what you bring into your home rather than what your kids choose to eat.

So, I try to bring a variety of food into my house. It includes a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables and also sweet and salty snack foods because they taste good and we all want to eat those. If I think of that balance overall, that macro management of the choices available in
the house, I can then avoid micromanagement. In my house, I try to avoid “Don’t have more of that” or “Pick this, not that” because that’s when some of that power struggle can come into play, and when kids can start to worry or feel more shame or concern about the choices that they’re making.

Focusing on that high level and letting go of the control in the day-to-day helps kids to think about their food choices a little differently.

Tip #3: Teach kids how to take care of themselves by teaching them how different foods serve them.

Another important thing to consider is that this is an opportunity to teach kids how to take care of themselves. I’m a big believer in talking about what different foods do for your body to teach kids about how they can start to think about that on their own. Rather than saying, “Don’t eat the cookie” and not talking about why, we can instead say “Here are things that these types of food do you, such as, give you energy or help your eyesight.” This way, over time, and as they’re preparing to leave my house, they know more than “good” and “bad” or yes and no. They know why and how, and how much, and how to make those decisions for themselves as they grow and develop.

Katie Loth, PhD, MPH, RD, is an assistant professor and associate vice chair for faculty affairs in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Loth is both a researcher and a practicing clinical dietitian. Her research explores social and environmental influences on child and adolescent dietary intake, eating behaviors, weight status, and disordered eating behaviors. As a mom of three and Board member of WithAll, she is interested in identifying ways that parents and primary care providers can work to help the children in their care develop and maintain a healthy relationship with food and with their bodies.

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Shannon assists with the logistics of development and operations and making every day run as smoothly as possible. Her day-to-day focuses on our Recovery Support Program, budget management, events, and administrative support. She enjoys being part of the nonprofit world and finding ways to help enhance the organization. She has a heart for serving others and helping people succeed.

Shannon has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Health & Exercise Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Walden University.

Outside of work, you can find Shannon chasing her two girls around, attending sporting events and finding the next brewery or winery to explore.

Lindsay leads our operations, programming, fundraising, and communications to better fulfill our mission. She enjoys engaging with our supporters and stakeholders to build stronger connections to our work. Outside the office, you can find her planning her next trip, exploring the Twin Cities, or reading her book club’s latest pick.

With ten years of experience in nonprofit and foundation administration, Lindsay is a creative project manager working to strengthen all our operations. She loves being a part of a team deeply dedicated to discovering innovative and effective strategies to end eating disorders and is excited to invite others into this important work. Efficient and collaborative, she executes activity across all operations, including fundraising, events, communications, and programming. Lindsay has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, and a fundraising certificate from the University of St. Thomas. She and her family live in Richfield, MN.

As Executive Director, Lisa leads WithAll’s strategic growth as a sustainable social enterprise dedicated to the prevention of and healing from eating disorders.

Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, community relations, and law, and nearly 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership, most recently at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. She is a graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, a member of the Minnesota Bar, and a Minnesota Supreme Court appointee to Minnesota’s Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. She volunteers with her daughter’s school and with youth sports.

Lisa does this work because she knows eating disorders are not a choice; they are deadly, and they are everywhere. She also knows kids are not born with harmful thoughts and actions around food or their body—and it’s our job as adults to keep it this way so they can focus their precious brains and time on things that matter.

Lisa finds laughter, all children, and the numerous variations of sparkling water to be delightful.